WU Libraries Staff Spotlight: Joel Minor

Joel Minor joined the Department of Special Collections in 2012 as curator of the Modern Literature Collection/Manuscripts. In that role, he administers and promotes the Modern Literature Collection, which includes original drafts, correspondence, and ephemera from more than 175 prominent American authors, including William Gass, James Merrill, Howard Nemerov, and Mary Jo Bang. Minor came to the WU Libraries from Texas State University in San Marcos, where, as an archivist for the Wittliff Collections, he worked with materials from notable Southwestern writers like Cormac McCarthy and Sam Shepard. Minor holds a B.A. in English from Dakota Wesleyan University and an M.S. in library and information science from the University of Texas-Austin. He lives in University City with his family.

Tell us a little bit about your job.

My core role is overseeing all aspects of the Modern Literature Collection (MLC). I also am in charge of any other manuscripts in Special Collections, such as our Egyptian papyri and medieval Books of Hours. For the majority of my five years here, I have been actively involved in curating the rare books as well.

What do you like most about your job?

I like being associated with something as distinct and lasting as the MLC. More concretely, but related to that, I like to add new collections that fit with what’s been established but also take the MLC in some new direction. Since I love history and literature, helping others interact with the manuscripts and personal archives of revered writers is pretty special.

Are you working on any big projects/acquisitions right now?

On March 1 we are starting an NHPRC-funded grant project, which will result in the digitization of 947 audio recordings of spoken-word performances, artist and writer interviews, and radio shows, all from St. Louis in the late 1960s to the mid- 2000s.  We will then provide online access to the spoken-word performances, along with accompanying digitized flyers, correspondence, clippings, press releases, etc.

In 2017 I’m hoping to acquire a substantial collection of early-television, play and movie scripts, plus other files, to add to the A.E. Hotchner Papers. Also, an important personal archive from May Swenson’s longtime partner, which will not only shed light on Swenson the writer, but Swenson the Mormon lesbian in 1940s-60s America.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have a wonderful family that keeps me busy in my off-hours. I love table tennis and sometimes play with the WU Table Tennis club. I write a lot of poetry. I also listen to and occasionally write about music (I just co-authored a piece on Mayo Thompson in Southwest American Literature). Someday I will get back to gardening.

Have you read anything good lately?

I really enjoyed Keith Houston’s The Book, which is a very handsome, informative, and readable explanation of the main facets (page, text, illustration, form) of book history, from cuneiform to today.

About the author